How to Make an Intentional Career Change, with Jeff Perry

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It’s easy to follow an opportunistic path with your career, taking what gets handed to you and making the best of it. But your career becomes more rewarding when you become more intentional. Getting clarity on how you need your job to align with your life is the most important first step, says Find Your Dream Job guest Jeff Perry. Jeff suggests focusing on what you want in a job rather than what you want to get away from. Jeff reminds us that we each have the ability to make choices. Don’t be at the mercy of others when it comes to your career; be intentional with what works for your life and needs. 

About Our Guest:

Jeff Perry is a leadership and career expert who works with individuals, teams, and organizations. Jeff also hosts The Engineering Career Coach Podcast.

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 427:

How to Make an Intentional Career Change, with Jeff Perry

Airdate: November 29, 2023

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

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You’re ready to switch careers.

But before you apply anywhere, says today’s guest, you need to understand why you’re making the move.

Jeff Perry is here to talk about how to make an intentional career change.

He’s a leadership and career expert who works with individuals, teams, and organizations.

Jeff also hosts The Engineering Career Coach Podcast.

He joins us from Pullman, Washington.

Well, let’s jump right into it, Jeff. How common is it for people to change careers today?

Jeff Perry:

There’s obviously a huge spread here with how often people change careers. When I was growing up, my dad stayed in his same career his entire career and worked over forty years doing the same thing, and I think that used to be more common. These days, that’s less common.

Whether or not you’re changing careers, as in changing organizations, I think there’s probably some wisdom in making some sort of shift every two to five years that is able to refresh you and give you a change in responsibilities and keep you learning, growing, and engaged in your work.

So you don’t want to stay stagnant and just keep on doing the same exact thing over and over again. Even if you’re doing mostly the same thing, it’s good to have something that refreshes you and challenges you in a new way every few years.

Mac Prichard:

Well, you mentioned how changing careers can bring new energy to your work. What are some other reasons, Jeff, in your work that you’ve found that people change careers?

Jeff Perry:

So, I find that there’s a number of them, and really, again, think of people at different stages of their careers and how they feel. Obviously, if someone is unemployed, they might feel overlooked right now, and so they’re looking for something.

But there’s a lot of people who are maybe at the next level, where they just kind of are in an obligatory surviving mode because they’re underemployed. That’s a great reason to make a shift because you’re looking for something that is gonna help you continue to grow and get you out of surviving and more thriving.

But there’s another layer that I think is very common, that people are looking to make a shift because they recognize they’re there, and I call this being opportunistic. People are paid well; they’re pretty comfortable, but they’re also disengaged or feeling stuck in some way or form in their career. This is, maybe, they’re feeling pigeonholed in a type of role that they’re in. Maybe they are not seeing an opportunity for continued growth and development in their current organization, or some of the reason says, hey, I’ve just been kind of taking the things that have been coming towards me, and they’re recognizing that maybe there’s more there.

And so, the shift here is a keyword that I’ve found that is so critical for all of us that live in our careers and our lives in general is to be intentional. When people make that shift from just being opportunistic and sort of being reactive and taking the opportunities that are given to them and be intentional and be purposeful, proactive, deliberate, and a creator of their lives and their careers, then they can make that career change that’s moving them towards what they want to do and who, as a person, they want to become instead of just letting their career happen to them.

Mac Prichard:

I want to talk more about what an intentional career change means and looks like, Jeff. But let’s step back. What does an unintentional career change look like? Paint a picture for us.

Jeff Perry:

Yeah, so I think the probably most common version of that is that opportunistic person I was just talking about, and this was me early in my career, just to give you an example. So, when I was early in my school days, I think I was in ninth grade, when I decided that I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, and never during my high school or undergraduate university days did I change that. I didn’t change my major. I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. I was good at math and science, and I decided that. But, beyond that, I wasn’t really clear on that.

And so, I just sort of took opportunities that came my way. When I was in school, I had opportunities to do tutoring in a math and a physics lab, and then that led me to people who were in a research lab, and then that research lab gave me connections to my first job. I actually ended up doing software engineering, which wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do, but it was an opportunity that came my way. And then I had a connection that said, hey, here’s another opportunity that might be good for you, and so, I took that. So, I was very opportunistic.

But, never at any point thus far did I say, this is what I want to do and then go craft the skills that I needed to make that happen and go take the actions to create that. And so, that was the shift where I was not being intentional or just being opportunistic and kind of being reactive to the opportunities. And it’s not that anything was bad about that, and since I’ve been grateful for the opportunities that I had along the way.

But I now recognize that there were perhaps things that weren’t as optimal because I was being reactive or just kind of letting my career happen to me. And I see that happen with so many people who just sort of take the path that’s given to them, whether that’s in their community, their parents and their expectations, or other things. But making that shift towards being intentional and deciding this is what I really care about and who I want to become really empowers us to create and make decisions based on more powerful levers that we can create.

Mac Prichard:

What happens in a career when you are intentional? You don’t say yes, for example, for every opportunity that comes your way. Instead, you step back and you think, as you mentioned a moment ago, about your goals and purpose. What benefits do you see in the clients you work with, Jeff, who do that work when they do have an intentional career?

Jeff Perry:

A word that I feel like is really powerful is this idea of alignment. So, there’s a lot of talk out there these days about work-life balance, and really, what we’re trying to do in general is live a life. And so, maybe we should be shifting that to, say, life-work balance. Let’s put life first and the kind of life we want to live, and let work be a supporter of that.

But, even better, instead of trying to balance – balance in and of itself kind of represents that there’s no movement. If you think of a balance scale, two things are balanced and are not moving. But really, we should be moving forward in our life.

So, actually, probably, a better word to be more optimal is life-work alignment. How can our work and our life align together to create mutually beneficial things? So, our work supports the things we want to do in our life, and our life infuses our ability to do great work and the impact we want to do in our careers.

That’s what really starts to be unlocked is we become better and more intentional people, that my work aligns and it helps me be better, so that when I come home with my wife and my kids, I’m a better husband, I’m a better father, I’m a better community member, and that stuff also feeds into the things that I’m doing in my work that makes me a great, whether employee or, for me, an entrepreneur and a coach and trainer in the things that I do.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about how to create an intentional career. And one of the first steps you recommend, Jeff, is to pay attention to your mindset. Why is it important to do this when you’re changing careers intentionally?

Jeff Perry:

Yeah, so I think mindsets get neglected a lot. Because our mindsets are really what fuel our behavior and the actions that we take, and our behavior, in the end, is what fuels our results. So, ways to think about mindsets is sort of the lens through which we see the world.

I’m wearing glasses, and so if I have the wrong prescription, I’m gonna see things distorted. Or if I have a muddy lens or something, I’m not gonna see things clearly. But if my mindset right, then I’m gonna be able to see the reality of things clearly.

Another way to think about a mindset is like it’s our internal operating system. And so, when we can get our minds right, it allows us to do the right actions in the right way because how we’re thinking about the situations, the opportunities, and the challenges that we have fuels our ability to actually move through those situations rather than just.

For example, a growth mindset suggests we’re always looking for opportunities to grow. But in a career, if you’re trying to make a career change, there’s a lot of rejection and challenges, and it’s not always gonna work out perfectly. Do I look at those challenges and rejections and the things that are hard about that as knocks on me, that there’s something wrong with me? Or do I look at all of those situations as opportunities to grow? I get to choose, and that’s fueled by my mindset, which then will fuel me to be able to take a more engaged, empowered approach to move forward positively beyond those challenging situations.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s take a break, Jeff. When we come back, I want to talk more about mindset. Stay with us. When we return, Jeff Perry will continue to share his advice on how to make an intentional career change.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Jeff Perry.

He’s a leadership and career expert who works with individuals, teams, and organizations.

Jeff also hosts The Engineering Career Coach Podcast.

He joins us from Pullman, Washington.

Now, Jeff, before the break, we were talking about how to make an intentional career change, and we were talking about mindset and how important it is when you’re changing careers intentionally. You talked about how mindset can provide clarity in situations and when you’re making decisions about your career. How in your work with your clients, Jeff, do you help people get the right mindset? What kinds of steps or exercises do you take them through?

Jeff Perry:

Yeah, so the first step to improving your mindset is just being aware of where you’re at right now. So there’s some assessments that I have people take to gain some awareness of, oh, where am I at right now? What’s my level of thinking? And how am I looking at situations and stuff like that?

And just becoming aware allows us to be more empowered to shift the influence of our mindset and start asking ourselves better questions and being aware of, oh, is my mindset negative in this situation? Can I change how I move through this situation?

And then the other thing is giving them opportunities and insights into how they can do things differently. For example, when making a career shift, one of the things that people are often doing is going out, networking, and talking to new people and companies and organizations that they’re interested in.

But there’s a whole lot of people that I work with that, especially at first, are quite reticent to do that. They’re like, how am I gonna do this without feeling like I’m just using people and asking them to give me a job? And I just feel weird about that. Right? But a mindset shift in how we do that can help empower you to do that in a better way.

For example, I had a client who, he was really struggling. He was moving through a career transition where he was a mechanical engineer, but he had gotten a Master’s degree in robotics. And he really wanted to move into robotics, which had a large software and automation component to it, but he had been graduated with his Master’s for a few months, and he still wasn’t getting any traction, like hadn’t had any interviews.

But he shifted his mindset on the networking space that said, hey, I’m gonna think about every one of these people that I reach out to as being legitimately interested in them, not just in what I want out of this situation but actually building a positive relationship with them. And it started shifting where he was starting to have multiple conversations a week. At one point, he had like seven or eight interviews in one week that came mostly out of these networking connections that he was making.

And he said the reason why is because I shifted how I was thinking about what networking really meant and why I was really talking to people. So that’s just one example of how we can start to shift how we think about a situation and why we’re doing what we’re doing, and that fuels our actions in a different way, which will then get us different results.

Mac Prichard:

What helped him make that shift? What step did he take that changed how he thought about networking and what he hoped to get from those conversations?

Jeff Perry:

Yeah, so to some degree, he recognized that the way he was approaching things previously was just not that helpful. Obviously, it wasn’t working, and so he knew that he needed to change something, and then he recognized the fears of doing some of that outreach. But he said, you know what? I’m gonna do this anyway, and he trusted me enough to kind of trust the process to do things differently.

And in the end, to some degree, he and everyone else who makes a shift like this, you just have to decide. That decision isn’t necessarily that your mindset shifts in an instant; like, it’s a lifelong process to work on our mindsets, but what we can decide is to decide that we are committed to the process of shifting our mindsets. And so, he started taking actions that were different than what he was doing before.

Because he was fighting against some of these previously held beliefs about networking and what that looked like, and what that meant. But in doing so, he was able to shift towards some more positive actions. And then, when he started seeing the results out of that, those old beliefs that he had didn’t have quite as much power as they used to.

Mac Prichard:

A second tip you make for people who want to make an intentional career change is to know the career you want. Why is it important to know exactly the career you want? What happens when people can answer that question?

Jeff Perry:

Yeah, so this keeps with our theme of being intentional, and what I call this is the idea of career clarity. Right? Getting clarity about what we want, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m gonna have this magical treasure map where X marks the spot and I have everything I want to do and the types of roles and the types of companies I want to work in all mapped out for the next five, ten, twenty years. I don’t think that that’s possible.

But a couple of different ways we can look at this is maybe a couple of metaphors. One is thinking about getting clear on what’s your north star. What’s this guiding light that’s going to pull you and guide you towards, again, where you want to go? And who you want to become as a person.

Another way to think about getting career clarity in deciding what you want is that it can act as a filter where when opportunities or situations, or options are placed in front of you, or you’re considering them, you’re clear on the things that you really care about. Maybe, what are some non-negotiables that you really need in your next career opportunity? And maybe some things that are nice to have so that when you are evaluating these options, you can run them through these filters, and they can help narrow the choices.

I want to share just a brief quote here, Mac, because it’s one of the things that’s difficult about careers is that in our modern world is that there are so many choices available to us, which is great. But it also comes with some challenges. So, this quote comes from a researcher by the name Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, hopefully, I’m saying that right. He passed away a couple of years ago. He’s most known for his research on the concept of flow.

But, he says this in one of his books; he says. “The wealth of options we face today has extended personal freedom to an extent that would have been inconceivable even a hundred years ago. But the inevitable consequence of equally attractive choices is uncertainty of purpose. Uncertainty, in turn, saps resolution, and lack of resolve ends up devaluing choice. Therefore, freedom does not necessarily help develop meaning in life. On the contrary, if the rules of the game become too flexible, concentration flags, and it is more difficult to attain a flow experience. Commitment to a goal and to the rules and details is much easier when the choices are few and clear.”

Mac Prichard:

So, you let out some questions that people can ask themselves to get clarity about what they want. How do you help people? Or what have you seen work, Jeff, to help people say no to opportunities? Because, as you say, there are so many choices. So you get clarity about what you want. But how can people get clear about what they don’t want?

Jeff Perry:

I actually think that while it’s important to look at what you don’t want, it’s actually more empowering to look at what you do want so that we’re moving towards what we want, not just trying to move away from something that we don’t want. And that’s where I find a lot of people starting when we’re having conversations; they’re in a situation that they don’t want. They recognize that. But they’re not clear on what they do want.

And so, I want to be more clear on what they do want. But either way, you’re sort of going through, you can look at really practical things. Do I want to work remote? Or hybrid? Or in person? Where do I want to live? Or what are the options that would be important to me? What kind of life-work balance or alignment, as we were talking about earlier, do I want? How many hours do I want to be working? What’s the flexibility there? What’s the type of work that I want to be doing? At least like, what will my work enable me to learn? How will it enable me to grow? Do I want to be closer to customers? Do I want to be in leadership, or do I want to be a technical expert?

All of these sorts of information we get to decide at different stages, and it’s never set in stone or static. But we’re continually evaluating and iterating through this as we move through our careers.

Mac Prichard:

Your final tip for making an intentional career change is to build a personal brand. How does a strong personal brand help you switch careers, Jeff?

Jeff Perry:

What a personal brand enables is it helps the people that you’re going to be interacting with and talking to about your career in different situations to understand who you are and the value that you deliver. Now, there’s all sorts of ways that this can come into play. Certainly maybe, one of your first impressions might be someone looking at your LinkedIn profile or your resume. Right? And how you communicate who you are and what you’ve done in the past, and write a personal statement and showcase what your skills are. That’s all part of your personal brand to begin.

But it also feeds into how you would communicate who you are, introducing yourself like an elevator pitch in a networking conversation or something like that. It can also feed into what you’re communicating in a job interview because I think if you’re thinking about a model like a really simple Venn diagram, like two circles that are intersecting. A personal brand is the intersection of who you are as a person and a professional and what other people know about you. And what you’re trying to do is help them know more about you in respect with the things that are relevant to what they are trying to accomplish.

But if you don’t tell them, then they can’t know. And so, there’s all sorts of people that are like, I have all of these skills, I have all of these things. Why won’t someone give me a chance? But they’re probably not doing a great job of actually communicating that personal brand that helps other people know who they are and what they can do. And that comes at many different levels, like we were talking about, from documentation to the conversations and interviews you’re gonna have. But we need to get clear on who we are, what are our greatest strengths that we can deliver, and how that translates to that value that we can deliver in the workplace.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Jeff. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Jeff Perry:

Well, I have some exciting things coming up. First of all, I want to share a free resource for the group. It’s called My Career Clarity Checklist. Guests and listeners of Mac’s List can go get it at

And I’m also really excited because I’m working on a book. It’s called The Intentional Engineer: A Guide to a Purpose-Driven Life and Career For Engineers and Technical Professionals, and it’s gonna be released this fall. It might even be out by the time that this episode goes live.

But I’m excited as an enabler for engineers and technical professionals and really anyone to utilize a lot of the principles we’ve been talking about today and go even deeper in how they can build intentional lives and careers that they love and have meaning and purpose for them.

Mac Prichard:

Well, thank you for that free offer, Jeff. I know listeners can also learn more about you and your work by visiting your website,, and that you invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and as always, I hope they’ll mention they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.

Now, Jeff, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to make an intentional career change?

Jeff Perry:

I want everyone to recognize that they have the power to decide the kind of life and the career that they want to live. It doesn’t have to be influenced or decided by the market conditions or your family or where you grew up or anything.

You can be empowered to make a decision about who you want to be, and yeah, maybe you might have more privileges or challenges to getting there. But all of us get to make the decisions and be empowered to be who we want to be. And so, I encourage you to be intentional to decide and take some time to think about who you want to become and then chart your own path to making that a reality.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Enrique Ruiz.

He’s a senior talent acquisition manager at Thesis. It’s a digital agency in Portland, Oregon.

Enrique is passionate about finding and attracting the best talent.

And he’s worked with thousands of job applicants.

He says the successful ones do three things well.

Wouldn’t you like to know what they are?

Join us next Wednesday when Enrique Ruiz and I talk about your LinkedIn page, your resume, and you.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List.

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This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.